Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Stretching Out April

When January rolled around and the calendar changed to 2014, I  decided I would not set health and fitness goals for the whole year.  Rather, each month I have chosen a different area to focus on and make some positive changes.

In April I have been working on flexibility and stretching… this has meant more frequent yoga sessions and an ongoing search for yoga DVDs.  I am thoroughly enjoying all the stretching and also practicing yoga with The Captain at home some mornings… yoga mats side by side on the living room floor.  The morning light in our apartment is fabulous and it is a really nice start to the day. 

I have been having some trouble finding just the right DVDs for our home yoga practice and I after purchasing one that I am a bit disappointed with, I have been taking them out of the library.  My own yoga experience is quite limited.  In March I attended  4 or 5 Flow Yoga classes and 4 Body Flow classes at the gym.  The Captain has never had the benefit of a live instructor.  Finding a suitable beginner’s yoga DVD has been a challenge for sure.  We have done some where the flow is much too quick for us… some don’t have any instructions at all… some have poses that are way too difficult.  We have discovered that we like Rodney Yee’s productions and voice, but not necessarily the actual routines.  

Thanks to those of you who have offered suggestions about DVDs we might try.  I am actively searching them out.

This week I borrowed one from the library called Yoga Zone,  led by yoga master Alan Finger. 

Apr 30 yoga zone 001

He guides the student through simple, easy to understand  routines and poses.  His instructions are so well-articulated that you do not have to keep looking at the tv screen to be able to follow along with the flow and that makes it so much better for the neck and head, I think.  He explains where to place your weight on your feet and hands, and when and how to move with your breath. I think the foundation in learning these basic poses will be good for us as we progress.     There is a second disc for meditation practice as well.

We did this yoga DVD for the first time on Monday morning… and we both relaxed so deeply near the end that we almost fell asleep during the Shavasannah.  On Tuesday, as we were stretching after our 4 mile  morning run, The Captain said he could really feel some of the places on his hips and legs that had been challenged by the yoga moves.  Great.   I think we will do this yoga session again on Thursday morning before I head to work. 

And as for me, I really noticed some tendency toward cramping in both my calves after our run.  I wonder if this was my own reaction to some of the yoga poses we tried on Monday.  After drinking several glasses of cold water, I made delicious berry-banana protein smoothies  for both of us to enjoy while we stretched… adding a spoonful of Fermented L-Glutamine to mine. I think it helps with muscle recovery from tough workouts.  My legs were quite tired and the stretch felt really good.

Apr 29 Smoothies 002

Then, after my shower I put on my Tommie Copper leggings.  This picture was taken last Summer but I want to show them to you.  They fit me perfectly.

Aug 14 TC 001
Right away I could feel the warmth building in my legs, and the cramps eventually subsiding.  When we went out later to do some grocery shopping, I kept them on… just pulled my jeans on over top.  I  wore the leggings throughout the evening and only removed them to change into my jammies for bed.    I must sound like a broken record by now, but if you get a chance to try some Tommie Copper compression gear, DO IT!

I am kind of sorry to see April and the focus on flexibility come to an end… but I am certainly not giving it up.  I have seen some slight improvements and that only encourages me to continue.  I love stretching and plan to never give that up.  But, it is almost May and time to move on.

How did April pan out for you?

Are you a fan of stretching?

Monday, April 28, 2014

5 Special Personal Care Gifts for Mother’s Day

Mother's Day is right around the corner and it if you haven't already, you might want to put some thought into how you are going to celebrate your Mother this year.  Sunday, May 11th is coming up fast. I know you will want to find something unique and personal for your own Mom.

Sunday, May 11th is Mother's Day

I have some hard and fast personal rules about gift-giving.  Selecting just the right gift for someone else can be an agonizing and time consuming process, when done well, and in my very biased  opinion, properly.  I think all too often people think about themselves when selecting gifts.  Sometimes we think about how our choice of gift reflects on us, as the giver, instead of focusing on how much the receiver of the gift will really enjoy it and be genuinely happy to receive it.

My choice of Mother’s Day gifts has really changed over the years.  I always had a difficult relationship with my own Mother so the gifts from me to her always said so much more than Happy Mother's Day.

When I was a child I would draw pictures of Mommy and Me, or make a gift from an age-appropriate craft. And those gifts were always very eagerly received. I think Mothers with young children really love these kinds of gifts and treasure the little hands and hearts that make and give them, so proudly.  I recall that my Father would take the family to a local pancake house for brunch on Mother’s Day and it would be filled with other families, also celebrating Moms, and giving them the day off cooking a family breakfast.

As I got older, and started earning some money so I could buy things, I stopped making cards and crafts and started buying jewellery, colognes, and scarves and gloves.  Usually things I thought and hoped that my Mother would like.  I always made sure to call her in addition to the cards and gifts I sent, after I moved several hundred miles away from my family home.

I now believe that Mother’s Day gifts should be about uplifting and celebrating Mom as a woman. Yes, you could purchase her favorite cologne, or items from a skin care line you know she uses, or even her favorite bath products… but likely she already has those things and she would purchase for herself anyway.  I hope you will make your gift something different and special.

What you pay for the gift really doesn’t matter… but the thought and effort you put into do, very much.  Here are some things I think celebrate our Moms as lovely, feminine beings, who deserve to be pampered and petted.  Some of them are pricey… others cost very little or nothing at all.  They are all a bit unique.

5 Special Personal Care Gifts for Mother's Day

Spa Certificate 
If your Mom is a seasoned spa goer, you could give her a certificate to her favorite salon. If she is not, schedule a visit for the two of you to go together… she will be less shy about going if you go a deux instead of just buying a certificate for her and sending her off alone. And think of the fun you will have together. Select items such as facials, mani/pedis, massages.   (I don’t recommend hair or makeup services as this may imply you think she needs a change.)

Home Massage
This is a lovely gift for the first timer. Have a mobile masseuse come to your home and do a massage for you and your Mom.  You can plan a girls afternoon; have tea and cookies after, or wine and cheese if that is more your Mom’s style.

Toilettree Skin Care System
These body care brushes are a wonderful way for Mom to look after her lovely skin in the privacy of her own home.  There are 2 brushes for the face, one for the body and one pumice stone.  Very thoughtful.

Homemade Bath Salts
Perfect for Moms who love to soak in the tub, these Snickerdoodles Bath Salts and the Oatmeal Cookie and Milk Bath are made from ingredients you likely already have in your home.  Just put them together and place in a lovely $$ store container and decorate with ribbons.

Assorted Fragrances and Skin Care Samples
Visit a few local department store cosmetic departments and pick up all kinds of samples – fragrances, lotions, skin care items, and place them altogether in a nice little $$ store silky bag.  It is a fun way for Mom to try some new products.  And even though it doesn't cost anything, it says you took the time to do something nice just for her.

Any items you would like to add?

What do you like to do for your own Mom on Mother's Day?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday Faves and Raves

It’s been an odd week.  We have been doing lots of walking and hiking and some yoga, and there is a 4 mile run slated for later this morning.  But overall it has been quite quiet on the fitness front. We have been discussing our workout goals and intentions and where we want to spend our time and effort over the next several weeks.  Tennis and golf take up so much time!

I am enjoying the yoga immensely, and as much as I have come to appreciate Rodney Yee, this DVD is just not for me. It is for someone who has practised the poses and some different flows and knows what comes next. It is a beautiful production, but all too fast-paced for beginners like me and especially The Captain.

Apr 17 Rodney Yee 001

If you can recommend a good DVD for beginners, I would be so grateful. 

We had a copy of Yoga For Dummies from the library a while ago, but I didn’t really care for it.  It does teach the poses, but there is no flow.  Perhaps I am being too fussy.  I shall keep searching.

On the food front, I am taking part in a 10-Day Spring Detox hosted by Amber Williford, through Awakened Nutrition and Training. I am struggling a bit to keep to some of the restrictions, but, hey, you can put up with almost anything for a short time right?  Oh yeah, other than caffeine withdrawal headaches… nope, not me. I am drinking my coffee and tea when I need it.

Here are some books I have been reading.

Apr 25 Books 001

  • Chris Powell’s Choose to Lose is about carb cycling on a 7 day basis.  I am going to give it a try soon.  
  • Haylie Pomroy’s Fast Metabolism Diet and the accompanying cookbook are very popular right now.  Her 7 day cycle of low protein, low carb, high fat days keeps the body guessing and is supposed to rev up a sluggish metabolism. I followed it for 7 days.  It is not easy but I think it is effective.  
  • Janet Evanovich’s latest Stephanie Plum romp is called Takedown Twenty.  A fun read. The only reading I have done for pure pleasure in some time. This is the 20th installment in a series that chronicles the misadventures of a female bond enforcement officer. So fun and I often laugh out loud while I am reading these books.

I also read some great blog fitness and health related blog posts this week.  Here are some highlights:

And here is one that just might give you pause for thought:

And finally, a video that is quite compelling:

Did you find anything great out there this week that I might have missed?

What do you read for pleasure?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Trying Out the ToiletTree Professional Skin Care System

You might recall that I spent the month of February, zeroed in on getting my act together in looking after some personal needs.  One of the items on my list was developing and maintaining an evening skincare routine. I had been getting really lazy about it all and most nights was just heading to bed without washing my face at all, let alone removing any makeup and using my skin creams.

But I am happy to report that I slowly but surely removed am removing that bad habit and now am following my new routine about 5 nights out of 7.  That is a win for me for sure.

Part of that new skin care routine is exfoliation.  A cosmetician that I met a few weeks ago, told me that when we remove dead skin cells, it allows our skin to absorb the material in our moisturizers and other products more readily.  That makes sense to me and I do love the way my skin feels when I have just exfoliated… soft and smooth.  She also told me not to go outside for at least an hour afterward because the skin is more likely to be damaged by the sun when it has just been exfoliated.  So I find it easier and more convenient to exfoliate in the evening.

I have been alternating between a couple of different products.   One has apricot bits in it, and the other has diamond dust.  They are both creams that must be rinsed away after use. 

But then, a couple of weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to try out something completely different, a non-cream product called the ToiletTree Professional Skin Care System.  I was intrigued and eager to give it a trial run.  They have a couple of color choices, so I picked blue to go with my bathroom decor.

ToiletTree Profressional Skin Care System

Apr 9 facial brushes 002

The ToiletTree Professional Skin Care System includes a battery powered waterproof hand-held gadget and 3 different styles of brushes:
  • 2 small face brushes – one medium-soft brush for exfoliation and an even softer brush for washing
  • 1 larger body brush
  • 1 pumice stone

The various brushes snap on and off the interchangeable rotating head on the base easily and quickly.  And I was pleased to find the required 4 AA batteries included in the package, too.

Apr 9 facial brushes 003

Apr 9 facial brushes 007

At first I was a bit apprehensive about using the brushes on my face and I made sure to read the instructions thoroughly before I began.  They suggest you do not use the brushes on broken skin or areas of the skin with rash, severe acne or other skin ailments.  And that you tie your hair back to keep it away from the brush head to avoid hair from getting tangled in the device when using the facial brushes.

So I got out a Sparkly Soul headband and put it on, and added a couple of hair clips for extra insurance and got to work.  The handle fits nicely in my hand.  The power button is in just the right place for a finger to hover over it to make it quick and easy to turn the motor on and off as required.

Apr 18 TT 001

I washed my face as usual with my usual foaming cleanser and then used the medium-soft facial brush to exfoliate.  I was surprised and pleased at how gentle it felt but made sure not to rub it into my face.  I just let it work a little as I passed it over my cheeks, chin, forehead, nose, and temples.  I was very happy that there was no splashing and no mess! Then I turned it off, rinsed and dried my face, and then rinsed the brush before removing it from the handle.

ToiletTree suggests that the device can be used in the shower because it is waterproof.  If I am quick in and out of the shower kind of girl, but you might like to use it that way.

Apr 9 facial brushes 005

I have used the ToiletTree Professional Skin Care System in my bath though. I like to pumice my feet sometimes at the end of a soak in the tub and this device makes that job very easy.  The pumice head is effective but not rough. I actually think it not only does a better job of removing rough skin than my regular pumice stone, I am sure it is much more gentle than I am when I rub on rough spots with the regular stone.  I do need more practice holding it in my left hand.  I think we runners have feet that need extra attention and care, and mine certainly do… especially now that I am doing yoga regularly and my bare naked feet are on display more often.

And the body brush is gentle and very effective too. I like to use it on my knees and elbows and upper arms and on my decolletage.   ( Look that one up if you don’t recognize it!)  I have also had The Captain use it to wash my back for me.  That is a real treat!

Apr 9 facial brushes 004

This little gadget is now part of my daily routine. The only thing missing in the package  is a nice case to keep it all in.  I think I have a pretty cloth one, that will do for now.

I was given the ToiletTree Professional Skin Care System at no cost. The opinions and enthusiasm are genuinely my own.  If you are interested, check it out at

Have you tried these kinds of  brushes before?  What is your favorite exfoliation product?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday Faves and Raves

I have come to really enjoy these Friday posts… I love sharing a tidbit or 2 about  my week and showcasing some of the great posts I have come across in the past week.  There is just so much wonderful information being shared these days.

We took another week off our formal strength training routine and so the week went like this:
  • Sunday, a 6.65 km run and then later, a 30 minute walk
  • Monday, a kettlebell workout and then later, a 20 minute walk
  • Tuesday, a 3.35 km run
  • Wednesday, a 20 minute kettlebell workout, then later a 75 minute walk
  • Thursday, a 20 minute yoga session
  • Friday, a planned 5 km run
  • Saturday, yet to be determined
And there were push ups and lots of stretching throughout the week as well.   But no more slacking off… need to get back to more formal strength training and I am re-working our schedule over the weekend.  And I am really pleased with the efforts I have been making in my nutrition and eats this week, too. I have been doing some experimenting with carb cycling and finding the results quite interesting.

I spent some time at the library early in the week looking at yoga DVDs to borrow.  I ended up bringing home 3 different ones by Rodney Yee.  I have to admit I love his voice. Have you heard him speak? So calming and soothing and velvety.  We did part of one of them on Thursday morning before we had breakfast and a clean up and I went off to work. It was good.  I think we will do it again.  It has 5 different, short parts, so you can mix and match if you like.

Apr 17 Rodney Yee 001

I am really amazed by how good The Captain’s balance is. I knew it was pretty good as he was a good skier and a great water skier… but his his ability to do these balancing yoga poses is very impressive.  And I am happy to report that I am making some progress with the flexibility in my hips/groin.  I think the yoga and extra stretching are really working for me.  I have been doing Pigeon Pose for a few minutes after we run, as a finisher to my stretching routine.

Our weather has been lovely for the most part.. and this time of year I really do yearn to be sailing.  One rainy afternoon we put this jigsaw puzzle together instead!

Apr 16 puzzle 001

I read some really good posts this week and found some good looking recipes too… and of course when I wasn’t looking for them at all.  I think I will be trying a couple very soon, though:

And last, but not least:

I am coloring hard boiled eggs for The Captain this afternoon with this little kit I found at the $$ store.

Apr 16 Easter egg kit 001

Any special Easter traditions at your house?  Do you like to color eggs, too?

Happy Easter

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Faves and Raves

This week has just flown by.  And it has been quite fun on the fitness front… and that was the point.

We have been doing our current formal strength training program for 7 weeks, and I decided it was time to take a break from it.  I think it is good to change things up occasionally and just have some fun while being active and mindful of getting in some workout time.  And, for the month of April I am concentration on flexibility and stretching so I wanted to be aware of that as well.

  • Sunday we started the week with a 5km run before breakfast, followed by a good stretch.
  • Monday we did a 20 minute kettle bell workout followed by a stretch and then a round of push ups to finish it.  We also walked downtown and back after lunch… about an hour in all.
  • Tuesday we did a 20 minute yoga routine from the new DVD – a Beginner’s Flow that was way too fast for a beginner… but we did our best, and managed to complete it.
  • Wednesday we did an hour long walk after lunch.
  • Thursday we did a different 20 minute yoga routine from the same DVD that concentrated on abs. Wow!  I was very impressed that The Captain was able to follow it all the way through. Not me, but I did my best.  My first session with Rodney Yee, and I love his voice.
  • Friday, today, we are about to head out for a 5 km before breakfast and also do some walking later in the day.
  • Saturday?  Not sure what the afternoon will bring but I do plan to get outside so perhaps a hike and some stretching.

I won some CEP thermal compression socks on from a Facebook contest and they just arrived.  They are thick and warm and soft.

Apr 11 stuff 001

I picked up another yoga mat this week.  We have very hard oak floors in the apartment and I decided we both needed to be using 2 mats, for comfort sake.  This one is 1/4 inch thick and I used it Thursday and really liked it.  It also came with a little strap to keep it rolled up. Nice.

Apr 11 stuff 002

Here are some of the blog posts and articles that I really enjoyed this week… helpful and informative:

How is your week flowing?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

5 Ways to Shake Up Your Workout

I thrive on change… both mentally and physically.   I get bored doing the same things over and over.  That holds true for just about everything in my life, but especially in my workouts.  Here are 5 of my favorite ways to keep things interesting and challenging.

5 Ways to Shake Up Your Workout

1.  Take it outside

This is such an easy and satisfying way to vary your workout.  If you are a treadmill runner or walker, hit the track at the closest schoolyard, or take your run to the street or even the beach.  Throw down your yoga mat out on your deck or carry it into the park.  Do your stretching on your apartment balcony.  It is a wonderful to get outdoors into the sunshine and fresh air. 

March 31 TC run 001

2. Substitute one exercise for another that is similar

If you are strength training, try doing hammer curls instead of your regular bicep curls.  Change your plank to mountain climbers, or do your plank on your elbows instead of from our shoulders.  If you are running, vary your route.  I like to use a web site called Map My Run to create a new routes in my neighborhood.  If you normally walk, go for a hike instead.  Try a Body Flow class, which is a combination of Tai Chi, Pilates and Yoga, instead of your regular Flow Yoga class.

Feb 24 TC gear 003

3.  Add something new to your routine

Add some hill repeats to your run.  Waiting for a traffic light to change?  Do squats till the light turns green.  If you run past a park bench, stop and do 20 push ups on it.   Do walk/run intervals instead of just running.   Do a couple of yoga poses after your run instead of your regular hamstring and quad stretches.  Add finishers to your strength routine such as push ups or burpees.   Change the timing of your lifts.  If you normally lift your weights up and down, try lifting to a count of 1-2-3 and then down... or up 1-2 and down 1-2.  Makes them harder, believe me!  If you don’t already stretch after you workout, try it.  Get your body on a different plane… put your head down or your feet up.

Oct 30 exercise 005


4.  Try a new piece of gear or equipment

Get creative.  Get yourself a new yoga mat or add a block to your sessions.  Is anyone ever NOT inspired by new running shoes?  What a bout a new workout top or pair of capris?  Try a stability ball or some heavier dumb bells.  What about a kettle bell?  I am looking forward to getting out my new tennis racquet again soon.  You might be inspired by a new Garmin or even a Fit Bit.  How about counting steps with a pedometer?

May 1 Core Ball 001 (2)

5.  Try a different workout altogether

Do sprint intervals instead of your usual 5 km run.  Substitute a kick boxing workout for your STEP class.   Run with a group instead of alone, or vice versa.  Do a kettle bell workout in place of your strength training routine.  Go for a hike instead of a walk.    Take a Pilates class instead of yoga.  Crank up the music and just dance.  How about ditching the workout altogether and spending the day washing your car or your boat?  Remember The Karate Kid?  Wax on… wax off.  Enjoy an afternoon in your garden; take the kids to the park.   Go for a horseback ride or spend a day at the water park.

April 22 Earth Day 003

There is really never any reason to get bored!  Even small changes are so good for our heads and our bodies. 

And make it FUN!

How do you vary your routines and workouts to keep them interesting and challenging?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Friday Faves and Raves

It has been quite a week!  Really busy on the fitness front and I am very happy about it and also very tired… in a good way!

My last group exercise class at the gym was on Wednesday. I walked for an hour with The Captain before heading into the gym and running sprint intervals on the treadmill for 10 minutes, and then walking around for a few minutes to bring my heart rate down before stretching, and then centering myself before the Flow Yoga began. It was really a tough workout, the poses zeroed in on lower body strength and flexibility.  Right up my alley for this month’s focus.

And I love that the leader reminded us to find an intention for the hour's practice.  Makes you feel like you have really accomplished something special.  I shall miss her guidance.  The only other class she teaches, outside this one at the gym, is for Moms and Babies... nope, won't be seeing here there either.

Then this morning, I put The Captain through his paces with a 40 minute strength workout.. my participation greatly reduced from normal due to a bad cut I got on my middle finger on my left hand yesterday at work by getting it caught between 2 tables.  I did the core work in our routine, but didn’t use any dumbbells for the upper and lower body exercises.  So, not really feeling like I had done much, I declared we should go out for a run!  It was short; only 3.5 km but it was great to be out in the sunshine.   All of the flowering trees here are showering pink petals and it looks like a pink blizzard when the breeze comes up from the Strait.  Very pretty but I can see why those with allergies are suffering.

Pink Trees

I have been enjoying a new and simple pre-run high protein drink lately… shared it on my food blog today.  If you want to read about it, just click on the picture.

My White Smoothie

I read some really good blog posts this week and wanted to share them with you.  These are a few that I found particularly helpful or interesting and thought you might like them too:

And just because I am loving them so much… here is one of my own posts about brownies!

What is on your favorites list this week?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Well… That’s a Wrap and Looking Forward to April

I just came home from my final group exercise class at the gym. My membership expires tomorrow and I work 2 shifts so I won’t be going to the gym at all.

I have really made the most of the last 2 days.

Yesterday I walked 20 minutes to the gym, ran for 25 hard minutes on the treadmill, stretched, huffed and puffed through a 65 minute Body Pump class and then walked home.  I was happy that I had pre-made my lunch and left it in the refrigerator because I was so hungry I would likely have just eaten a protein bar of some kind and not taken the time to make a proper lunch.  Afterwards, The Captain and I went for an hour long very brisk walk so I was pretty wiped out by day’s end.  But if felt great!  Do you ever over-do but really enjoy it anyway?  I love the way that I feel when I am physically exhausted from doing things I really enjoy.

Today I was looking forward to my final Flow Yoga class.  The Captain and I walked for an hour in the sunshine and then stopped at Stabuck’s for coffee before I headed to the gym and he carried on shopping and walking home.  Not all that many of the Starbuck’s locations here have good outside sunny seating so we took advantage of this downtown location today.  Just what I needed before heading into the gym and doing sprint intervals on the treadmill for 10 minutes, and then cooling down and stretching before Flow Yoga.  The leader put us through a very tough lower body workout today and it was brutal and wonderful.  It fit in so well with my desire to gain flexibility in my lower body, which is my April focus.

After the class was over, I took the opportunity to ask her about my making progress Pigeon Pose, and to thank her for her guidance and also to let her know it would be my last session with her for a while. My right hip/groin is so much tighter than my left and I wanted to see if I was doing the pose correctly for my ability, on that right side. She assured me that she had observed that as she walked around and that I am making the correct modification, and to continue and it will improve.  Hurray!

I have so enjoyed these classes, and I thought about starting my home practice with The Captain as I walked the 20 minutes home.

Yesterday, while on our walk I picked up a yoga DVD that I hope will be a good beginning for us.

April 2 yoga DVD 001

April 2 yoga DVD 002

I chose it for a many reasons:
  • I think GAIAM products are good quality overall
  • It has 5 different workouts on it that are each only 20 minutes long
  • I think 20 minutes is a good length of time for us to start with as it is not a huge time commitment
  • There is a beginner’s workout on it
  • The workouts are led by different instructors, one of whom is Rodney Yee and I have heard he is very good
  • And I thought it might be good for The Captain to have a male to work with occasionally so he can see that yoga is not ‘girly’ – he has not expressed that – I am projecting here
  • It was a  very small financial commitment… if it is horrible, I can give it away or toss it
  • I wanted a DVD so we can view on the large screen TV rather than having to follow a video on the the smaller computer screen… neither of our current laptops are capable of sending video to this TV. I am concerned about  this is for interest sake.  For myself I am committed enough to do videos on the computer, but for The Captain the TV is preferable.
So, goodbye to the gym… and hello to looking forward to continuing home work in April.  And now I need to get to work on a new schedule for us to start next week. 

Do you practice yoga at home with DVDs?  Any suggestions for newbies?